National Football League Commissioner Pete Rozelle said yesterday that a number of National Football League team owners have given up on the 1982 season, believing there is no longer an economic incentive for resuming play, with eight weekends of games already called off because of the players' strike.
As the 51st day of the walkout ended yesterday, Chuck Sullivan, the chairman of the NFL Management Council's executive committee, said he told Ed Garvey, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, that there is no point in a resumption of bargaining unless the union accepts the terms of management's latest offer.
"We have no intention of making any further moves," Sullivan, who is also executive vice president of the New England Patriots, said he told Garvey in a telephone conversation yesterday.
Rozelle, in a telephone interview from his New York office, said, "A lot (of NFL owners) have just accepted the fact that there is going to be no season." While he said some owners are still hopeful that an agreement can be reached to end the strike, Rozelle said others are no longer interested in playing out the remainder of the schedule.
Rozelle did not name any names, but Leonard Tose, the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, and Eugene Klein, the owner of the San Diego Chargers, are already on record as saying they think the season is lost.
Rozelle, who said he was only repeating what NFL owners have told him recently, also said some now say "they would be better off if they don't play the season." These owners, Rozelle said, have become persuaded that lost gate receipts and television income are such that there is no way the season could be resumed profitably.
Sullivan, who said he had a secretary transcribe his part of the phone conversation with Garvey, said he told the union leader, "Unless you are willing to move on the economic issues, there is no sense in meeting."
He said management has no interest in repeating the 20 days of futile attempts to resolve the dispute under the auspices of mediator Sam Kagel, who recessed the talks on Saturday.
Garvey said at a New York news briefing yesterday that, based on his conversation with Sullivan, "I feel something is about to develop . . . in the next two or three days negotiations will resume."
Sullivan disputed that interpretation. "Zero progress is being made," he said.
It was reported last night that Rozelle has advised hotels holding 5,500 rooms for the Super Bowl, scheduled Jan. 30 in Pasadena, Calif., to make contingency plans in case the game is not played because of the strike.
At the heart of the dispute is the union's demand for a wage scale that would account for the major share of player salaries, supplemented by $23.2 million in incentive bonuses to be paid on the basis of downs played and team performance. Management has offered a more modest scale, beginning at $30,000 a year for rookies and rising at the rate of $10,000 a year to a maximum of $200,000, but it sees this as a base upon which players would negotiate individually. In 1981, rookies averaged $55,726.
In other strike-related developments, members of the Cincinnati Bengals voted to accept in principle the management package.
Members of the Denver Broncos, New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Rams and Houston Oilers also voted to accept the package conditionally. The Dallas Cowboys said they could, too, with certain changes.
In Chicago, the Bears voted simply to reaffirm their solidarity.
In Minnesota, the Vikings met last night and decided only to press union leadership to make concessions on the wage scale; no formal vote was taken. "You can't sit by your wage scale and say, 'That's it or nothing' and go broke," said Ahmad Rashad.